The Edmonton Oilers flew the white flag on Tuesday night and were dropped 5-0 by the hapless Buffalo Sabres, who are last in the NHL.
The non-effort was one of many in the 2017-2018 season for the Oilers, who’ve become one of the hardest teams to watch in the entire National Hockey League. Even the Vancouver Canucks can cobble together something resembling effort, as they did on the same night when they knocked off Los Angeles.
True, expectations have been and somehow still are astronomical for the Oilers.
And as Sportsnet’s Mark Spector points out, a sense of entitlement accompanies the squad to this very day – even after the loss to the Sabres.
“You can’t afford to lose games — no disrespect to them — against teams like this,” said Edmonton forward Milan Lucic after Tuesday’s contest. “Where you should have two points at least in the season series, and we come up with zero against them. It just goes to show why we are where we are.”
The Sabres, a “team like this” according to Lucic, mopped the floor with the Oilers because they showed up.
Buffalo’s Jack Eichel had a goal and three assists, while Ryan O’Reilly had two goals. And the Sabres exploited a dismal Oilers penalty kill, which sits at a disturbing 54 percent at home.
Edmonton’s Cam Talbot lasted about a half hour before he was chased in favour of Al Montoya, who stopped 11 of a dozen and managed some semblance of dignity. Talbot has been pulled six times in 38 starts this season and three times in his last seven starts, by the way.
But really, who cares?
The 2017-2018 season is essentially a write-off for the Oilers, who are so good on paper it’s unreal and so bad on the ice it’s hard to stomach. And it’s a mystery to almost everyone on the squad, who can’t quite seem to figure out how the team that should win every game can’t defeat “teams like this.”
“Obviously if we knew (what was wrong), we would fix it,” said Connor McDavid. “We would stop having performances like this. For some reason, we just don’t get up for games. It’s unacceptable on everyone’s part and it starts at the top.”
The Oilers are now 21-24-3 and will face the Calgary Flames next. Their Alberta rivals are 25-16-6 and are humming ahead of some probable playoff time.
As for Edmonton, the questions persist and the agony seems without end.